11 votes

It's time for the police to rethink 'shoot-to-kill'

The St. Louis County Police Department released video last night that shows two of its officers opening fire and killing a knife-wielding man who had just held up a nearby liquor store.

Here's the video. Warning: it is quite disturbing, although there are no close-ups of the dying man.

When I posted the video on Twitter yesterday, rather predictably, the reaction broke into two camps.

Camp One notes simply that the officers fired at a man who was walking towards them with a knife after they had warned him. It was a graphic but justified application of lethal force by police officers trying to protect themselves.

Camp Two wonders why the police had to shoot him at all. Why didn't the police approach the scene with canisters of tear gas or with tasers at the ready? Why didn't they simply change their positions? Why, if they did have to shoot him, didn't they aim for his leg, and why did they fire nine times? Finally, why didn't they render first aid to him immediately instead of appearing to, in a panic, handcuff a prone, bleeding suspect? Sixteen seconds elapse between the time the police arrive and the time the suspect falls to the ground.


Trending on the Web

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

This is nobody's fault except for the dead guy.

And I don't feel bad for him one tiny bit. This guy was just a few steps away from the cop when he was shot. Another second or two and he would have been right on top of him. The officer didn't have any other choice. This man wanted to die and he got his wish.

I am sorry

but a gun is a lethal weapon, the only time it should be pointed at anything is when you intend to kill it. I am sure the person who wrote the article has watched lots of movies but a surprising amount of people have been killed from gun shot wounds to the leg (nicked an artery).
Truth be told we should reconsider when cops are allowed to pull their guns. Maybe they should be required to fire their taser before they can fire their gun. At the end of the day its a mistake to call a gun anything but deadly.

It would be stupid to start making up such rules.

Imagine this scenario. Cops get a call because a guy is wielding a knife. Cops arrive, but have to pull out taser because the guy only has a knife. Cops fires taser and it doesn't connect. Guy pulls gun and officer dies. The cop would have had to drop the taser and then draw his gun. A change like you are suggesting would only get cops killed. It's basically telling criminals to keep you gun concealed until the officer has his hands full with a nonlethal. It would put cops at a big disadvantage.


Cops already cheat, they out number out gun, have bullet proof vest, have helicopters. So forgive me if I dont shed tears if despite all those advantages they have to use a taser before a gun. By the wy I think they should use a taser even if the perp has a gun.

Not sure

what "held up" means. I think this guy shop lifted, no mention of a knife used inside the store, just the cops saying he threatened THEM with a knife. He grabbed two energy drinks and a pastry, why on earth would he need a knife for that? I know, it sounds a lot more convincing to the public when you say, "Police shot a man who 'held up' a liquor store today" rather than saying, "Police shot a 'shop lifter' today".

With taking what the officers said about the knife into consideration, I would say there is about a 50/50 chance the guy actually had a knife. That's giving the cops a little more credit than what is due.

Rule #1

Aim a weapon only at something you intend to kill.
#2 dont stop shooting until the threat is neutralized.
That's what I was taught.
Put this guy in any one of your homes and tell me you'd aim for a knee.

"The two weakest arguments for any issue on the House floor are moral and constitutional"
Ron Paul

Wouldn't a more sensible pair of guidelines be...

Wouldn't a more sensible pair of guidelines for a professional keeper of the peace be: 1. aim a weapon only at someone whose death, while hopefully avoidable, is a scenario that is at least preferable to what would happen if no weapon was aimed at them; 2. don't stop shooting until the THREAT is NEUTRALIZED? You'll notice the second one reads the same as yours, but I intend a more literal reading: the threat isn't the person, but his or her actions, and neutralization isn't death, but the person ceasing his or her threatening actions.

It might help to have a look at how police officers in some European countries would deal with situations like this. Sure, the citizenry there is in principle unarmed, and I understand that police officers will have to resort to stronger tactics when a suspect carries a firearm, but that wasn't the case here. A myriad different deescalating tactics seem to have been feasible here, but it looks like the option of deescalation didn't even cross the officers' mind.

A home owner who shoots to kill in a case where a non-lethal response is an obvious option? Not necessarily to be praised, but at least understandable. You've got an intruder in your home; that leads to very understandable instincts of anger and panic, and you didn't make the choice of having someone invade your home. But for a professional police officer, I think PROPORTIONAL self defense should be a high priority. That's not what I see here. I would not want officers like these be in charge of enforcing the law where I live.

If it took 9 "center of body mass shots" just to put him down

How many times would they be firing at his legs to put him down? There's a lot of potential to hit the wrong thing for every shot aimed toward the "center of body mass". That potential goes way up when aiming at faster moving, skinnier legs and firing more times to hit your target.

Proportional defense as a reaction to the wording of the article, "walking" toward them with a knife, isn't the right defense for that situation. It would be proportional defense to his intent to close the distance, which was walking for him while he thought it was working, but could become lunging, running, throwing, etc. in the blink of an eye.

Of course, all that is IF he really had a knife out.

Defend Liberty!

Guidelines are perfectly sensible

If you are not prepared to take a life, a firearm is the wrong tool for the job.

"The two weakest arguments for any issue on the House floor are moral and constitutional"
Ron Paul


Were you previously a cop? Who trained you?

In the grand american tradition

My father taught me. Never a cop.please excuse the brevity, everything is a live link on my tiny android screen, making participating an exercise in frustration.

"The two weakest arguments for any issue on the House floor are moral and constitutional"
Ron Paul

Not disagreeing with you at all,

and if he had the balls to enter a private residence uninvited.....

One of the reasons half my earnings go to the gov'ment in one form or another, is so these police have all those nifty non-lethal toys like; shotguns with rubber slugs, tazers and the like. Two cops, designate one as the 'shooter', and arm the other one with a tazer or whatever. Deploy the non-lethal method until the 'perp' comes within knifing range. If the non-lethal method fails, then you can pump him full of lead.


You captured my thought scenario..
the driver could have leaned across the vehicle roof
w/ rubber bullet weapon... even a lethal long gun
and put a bullet into the shoulder or leg
w/o endangering himself or his partner.
Lots of options other than a kill shot or tazer.
We don't need killer robots w/ badges.

Was there a non-lethal option?

A firearm should be the last resort.
If it is drawn it should be used correctly.
We don't need trick shots flying around to hit innocents.
You do realize a leg shot can be fatal?

"The two weakest arguments for any issue on the House floor are moral and constitutional"
Ron Paul

If I had a shotgun...

I would aim for the knee.
Maybe it's time to start issuing these in addition to Glocks
Give LEO's choices at the scene.. pick the RIGHT weapon.
Retrain, Rethink

Shoot after being bitten

As your new Emperor, I declare from this day forward, the Cops must be bitten by dogs before they can shoot them.

If they cop doesn't like it, they should be in another line of work.

I've been severely bitten twice, and have never thought to pull out a gun and start shooting man's best friend.

"Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous sea of liberty" TJ

Twice bitten

How have you managed to be bitten severely twice? If I'm severely bitten that dog is going down! No one should have a problem with that.

robot999's picture

Rethink Shoot to Kill AND

pass a law that REQUIRES police to wear body cams. And if they turn off those cams - that is grounds for immediate dismissal with loss of pension "."

The combination of these two things should cause these cops to think before acting.

"Government is the entertainment division of the military-industrial complex". - Frank Zappa